Mónica Millán

1960 | San Ignacio, Argentina
Mónica Millán — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Federico Gross, Portrait of Mónica Millán, 2022, courtesy of the artist

Argentine visual and textile artist.

Mónica Millán is a Zen Buddhist nun as well as an artist. Meditation, breathing, cooking and sewing, along with her artistic practice, are all part of her creative process. She studied at the Profesorado de Dibujo y Pintura Antonio Ruiz de Montoya in Posadas and has spent several periods dedicated to introspection at Zen monasteries in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and France, where she put her artistic output on hold and then returned to painting through exercises involving a brush with a single hair, as in El viaje por el Río [The river voyage, 1996-1997]. From 1986 to 1989 she studied with Luis Felipe Noé (b. 1933). She has received grants from the Fundación Antorchas, the Fondo Nacional de las Artes, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes.

In 2000 she was awarded a grant from Trama, an international project for cooperation among artists that ran until 2006. She was also associated with RAIN, an international network of initiatives by artists from the global South. The reciting of sutras and other Zen Buddhist practices transformed her creative process into one of ceremonies and rituals. Her pieces are testament to constant movement and close attention to the disciplined perfection of the tiniest details. She had residencies at the Banff Centre of the Arts in Canada (2001) and in Bellagio, Italy (2004). Around 2002 she made Jardín de resonancias [Garden of resonances], an installation constructed from natural materials such as nests, feathers, leaves, roots, mud sculptures and sounds. Her long walks through the hills and collection of organic materials led her to create cocoons and containers that emit recordings of the artist’s voice. This work was displayed at the Museo Moderno de Buenos Aires (2002).

That year she began to work with a village of Ao Po’i weavers in Yataity, Paraguay, in consultation with the curator and cultural promoter Ticio Escobar (b. 1947). This led to a sustained and fertile partnership between art and handicrafts based on the reappropriation, identification and recreation of traditional fabrics. Situación de Estudio: El vértigo de lo lento [Case study: the vertigo of going slowly, 2002-2012] is one of her best-known installations. In 2004 she undertook expeditions along the Paraná River to collect sound samples in the morning and at nightfall, in a landscape condemned to disappear, a reiteration of the tradition of explorer/artists. These travels gave rise to her Paisaje Misionero [Landscape from Misiones, 2005] and the cloth and sound installation El Picnic a orillas del río Paraná [Picnic on the banks of the Paraná, 2007]. Around 2010 she made large-format pencil landscapes featuring local fauna and flora. Some five years later, at the Primera Bienal Internacional de Asunción, she and Adriana Bustos (b. 1965) presented the project Plantío Barrett [Barrett Garden], a symbolic reappropriation of land in front of the Paraguay National Congress carried out together with the Conamuri organisation of peasant and indigenous women. Her large-format works combine swatches and appliqués of garments and blankets with embroidered colour highlights, intermixed with black and white drawings, thus generating profoundly beautiful microcosms.

Maite Paramio

Translated from the Spanish by Leo Stephen Torgoff.

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